The only time of the year you received gifts was Christmas. These gifts were not preempted by “I will buy you *insert something expensive you don’t like* if you pass your exams at the top of your class.” (You hated equations and cramming the periodic table and your economics teacher was such a bore, so you often failed.)
Before that time of the year, you would do these things in a sequence.
Firstly you would open freezer doors, letting the cold air hit your face — rubbing frozen sachets of water on your cheeks when Mum was not looking —because Lagos harmattan did not feel like cold at all and that’s the closest to the winter you binge-watched in soap operas you would ever get.
Secondly, small artificial pine trees would be put up in the far corner of the sitting room. Mum would wrap them with ropes of tiny colorful light bulbs then call you from your room to crown it with a star at the topmost single branch poking out. Last year you broke your ankle trying to reach up to the treetop.
Thirdly, you would dream about one day — hoping with all your might — kissing Nnamdi under the mistletoe while Justin Bieber’s "Mistletoe" played in the background.
Lastly, you would pack boxes filled with clothes and take a road trip to Dad’s village even though his parents died five years before your birth, so what point was there to going every single year? Dad never let you or Mum sleep over at her village house just 30 minutes away from his.
Eventually, Dad would permit you a visit to Mama Ogidi, Mum’s Mother, who was your favorite grandma because in your defense, you never met the other, and she looked mean in pictures.
Mama Ogidi’s wardrobe was filled with tiny leather purses. Her wine and white coloured duplex afforded her the luxury of having a whole room for this wardrobe. This was where you ran to after hugging your frail grandmother till she was out of breath. After, you played with the purses, finding a new one each year.
When tiredness turns your lips downward, droops your eyelids and makes your stomach rumble, Mama Ogidi would set down a huge plate of food. Jollof rice, pieces of chicken and very soft, oily, fried, slightly burnt plantain slices, just how you liked them. Mum always said they were unhealthy for a boy your age but Mama always waved her off,
“Rapu nwatakili k’orie n’ni, leave him to eat”
A satisfying exhaustion would induce sleep. But Mum would always wake you up because Dad would freak if you slept over at Mama’s. So you wake up groggy till Mama calls you aside, thrusts a thousand naira note and a purse (pink in color this year) into your hands and whispers in your ear,
“I hope this one sits well in your collection, my boy”
Throughout the journey back to Lagos, you stay quiet, the thoughts of Nnamdi on your mind. You wonder if he would like this one better on you. You finger the golden handle, trace the rough yet smooth leather, and rub the large buckle against your cheek.
When it is your turn to say the fourth decade of the rosary, you absentmindedly replace Hail Mary’s with Hail Mama till Dad stops the car to glare at you.